A bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to “protect Mueller” hit a brick wall in the Senate on Wednesday.
It was Flake’s third attempt to bring up the bill for a vote since President Donald Trump fired and replaced former attorney general Jeff Sessions last month, but the effort faltered again after getting blocked by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“Protect Mueller” bill falters again
Flake was denied the first time by McConnell and then by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) last month. By Senate rules, any senator can propose a vote on a bill, which can then be rejected by any one senator.
McConnell has called the bill a “solution in search of a problem,” arguing that he sees no indication Trump will fire Mueller. But Flake said Wednesday that legislation to protect Mueller “is critical to upholding public trust in our institutions of government.”
“This is not a witch hunt. Russia attempted to interfere in our elections…we are seeking truth here and that’s what the special counsel is doing,” Flake said, adding that the bill “maintains a significant degree of presidential control while protecting the special counsel investigations from being terminated by a president who might feel that he or she is under increasing heat.”
The retiring Arizona Republican was joined by Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) in calling for a vote on the bill, which passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in April. The bill would have stripped Trump of the authority to fire Mueller, requiring instead that a higher-up at the Justice Department terminate Mueller or any other special counsel.
It would also have allowed the special counsel to be reinstated after getting fired if an “expedited review” shows that there was no “good cause” for their termination.
Flake, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, vowed last month to withhold his votes on Trump’s judicial nominees in the lame-duck session in exchange for “protect Mueller” legislation after the bill met resistance from members of his party.
Democrats and moderate Republicans like Flake have ramped up calls to rally behind the man they hope will force Trump out of office — especially after the president canned Sessions last month and replaced him with acting AG Matthew Whitaker, who has criticized Mueller’s investigation in the past.
Republicans, however, balked at the idea of requiring legal protection for a powerful alphabet agent who is presiding over an investigation that has already exceeded its original mandate.
And so far, Mueller’s investigation has plodded on without restraints, leaving what many consider a destructive and reckless investigation intact.
While Democrats fear a Trump administration “coup” of the Justice Department, Republicans view the special counsel’s probe as having already succumbed to political bias, leaving few in Trump’s inner circle safe from a politically-motivated investigation with essentially no guard-rails.
Some Trump associates have had their lives and careers substantially damaged over charges that many see as the products of “perjury traps” — a tactic in which witnesses are tricked into making minor misstatements to investigators, charged with lying, and then turned state’s witness.